WASHINGTON - With the budget crisis barely resolved, US President Barack Obama is already urging Congress to complete a stalled immigration overhaul - and his Republican rivals don't share his enthusiasm.
"We should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system," Obama said Thursday.
"Let's start the negotiations. But let's not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years. This can and should get done by the end of this year."
An overhaul was in the works earlier this year.
In June, the Senate, dominated by Obama's Democratic allies, passed a historic reform package that would create a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
The Senate plan, crafted and approved with Republican support, would strengthen the border with Mexico and reorganise the visa system to give priority to high-demand fields, including engineers and farm workers.
But in the House of Representatives, Republicans hold the majority, and they are more hostile toward so-called "amnesty" for the millions of foreigners living illegally in the United States.
According to Democrats, immigration reform provides a chance to improve the image of conservatives, whose popularity sank after being blamed for the recent political paralysis in Washington.
"We have here a golden opportunity," said Democratic political consultant Maria Cardona. "We have a window of opportunity of one or two months, when the House can vote the reform."
Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez was more cautious.
"It is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for anything happening in a bipartisan manner on Capitol Hill these days," he said, though predicting immigration reform could be taken up "before the end of the year."